The True Crime Geek’s Guide to True Crime Documentaries

I fully realize this blog is more dead than most of the people these documentaries are about but eh- I guess it’s been resurrected for the sole purpose of this post. I’m not even going to apologize for my absense, because honestly this blog was barely alive before I killed it.

“What’s with the murder references, Lia?” you might ask (well only if you haven’t read the title and you thus have no idea what this post is about and who does that?), I have a small (tiny) obsession, which is true crime documentaries. If you’ve followed me on twitter you might know that, or you might not, idk. Either way, I’ve slowly made my way through pretty much every true crime documentary (or series based on true crime) I could find on Netflix and therefore I’ve decided I can call myself an expert.

Lately a lot of people have been talking about this series called “Don’t F*ck With Cats”, and a lot of those people are kinda new to this whole true crime thing, so specially for them (and anyone else who has an ounce of interest in true crime), I have gathered my entire Netflix history and compiled it into a recommendation list. You are welcome.

First, a word of warning. If you live in a safe bubble in which you trust people (ha imagine that) and have faith in humanity, the justice system, the media.. so basically anyone, be prepared to have that bubble popped. True crime is not something that you can look into and not have your view of the world changed: there are true horrific cases, there are complete and utter failures of justice, there are cases that will shatter your hope, there are things you will never understand no matter how much you’d want to. True crime is not fun and games, it’s real life and it’s completely and utterly messed up.

So, if you’re up for that. Here we go!

The best (and most fun) intro to true crime in my opinion (warning: you might get addicted) is Buzzfeed Unsolved: True Crime on youtube. If you have not heard about this, then you haven’t been hanging out with the right people (aka me) (jk), because it’s b i g. Buzzfeed Unsolved started around 6 years ago and is the brainchild of Ryan Bergara. It is not only quite scary at times, it is also one of the funniest things ever. Ryan and Shane (Madej) are the hosts and they do it so well. The series have all fairly short episodes ranging from 10 to 30 minutes in which they discuss well-known and unknown cases. They also have a supernatural edition parallel to this one in which they talk about hauntings, ghosts, aliens, and so on (also super fun and only mildly paranoia inducing :P)

The rest of this post will be divided into different topics that I thought these series and movies would fit nicely into (well, kinda, because most of these could fit into most topics to some extent).

If you are into the whole psychology aspect (the “why?”). If you want to understand why someone (anyone) would want to commit a crime or are just curious to get a look into the mind of a murderer, these might be for you:

  • The Ted Bundy Tapes – look into the eyes of one of the most-well-known serial killers in US history.
  • The Confession Killer – a man voluntarily confessed to hundreds of murders of women across the US, why?

If you’re into the conspiracy aspect. These series are a little different than the others because they’re not about a single person committing crimes, it’s about institutions and organizations conspiring and covering up crimes.

  • The Keepers – The murder of nurse Catherine Cesnik has still not been solved when decades later her former students come together to finally uncover what really went down at their Christian school all that time ago.
  • The Family – Whether this is actually about crime is debatable, but this is the true story of a cult-like organization with ties into political systems in the entire world.

If you’re into the ‘did he? Did he not?” aspect. If you’ve been reading whodunnit stories for years and can deal with the ambiguity of not being sure about anything, these might be for you.

  • The Devil Next Door – Is this seemingly normal man living in a normal street with a normal family really the “Ivan the Terrible”, aka the man who did the horrific deed of guiding millions of Jews into the gass chambers during WWII?
  • The Staircase – One woman dead in a staircase, covered in blood. Did her husband do it? (if you’ve finished watching this, do a little reading into The Owl Theory)
  • Making a Murderer – A man who spent 18 years wrongfully convicted finally gets released, only to be found the main suspect of a murder. Did he do it? Did the police set him up?

If you’re into the strangeness of it all. True crime is often stranger than fiction. Honestly, if you weren’t told these were true cases, you’d think they were too ridiculous to be believable.

  • Evil Genius – A bank heist, a collar bomb, a scavenger hunt – this one is truly beyond strange.
  • Abducted in Plain Sight – A girl gets abducted by her neighbor, not even just once: but twice.
  • Don’t F*ck with Cats – What starts off as as a couple of appalling videos of someone hurting and killing cats turns into a progressively more frightful and strange manhunt for the one responsible.

If you’re into the media spectacle aspect. You might know the phrase “trial by media” and these cases are the epitome of that phrase. I find media in crime cases truly one of the most fascinating things: they can make me feel hate in the purest form and yet are just doing their job.

  • The Disappearance of Madeleine McCann – Who doesn’t know the face of that little girl who went missing in that hotel room in 2007? Are her parents involved or did the media make it up and run with it?
  • Who Killed Little Gregory – A little boy dies. What follow is truly a wild ride: family feuds, anonymous treats, a media circus, and even more death..
  • Amanda Knox – Did Amanda truly kill her roommate or is she just a bystander caught up in a horrific case?

If you’d like something more fictionalized (as in based on the truth but more of a regular series). I personally really enjoy series based on true cases, because you get a more narrative story of what happened and who is behind solving the cases.

  • When They See Us – This is the story of 5 black teens who are falsely accused of a rape they had nothing to do with.
  • Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil, and Vile – This is the fictionalized story of Ted Bundy – be warned, you might hate yourself because you’re tempted to root for the guy.
  • Mindhunter – The story of how two FBI agents in the 70s start interviewing convicted serial killers in order to find out what makes them tick.
  • Zodiac – How the Zodiac killer, who went on killing sprees and tauntered the police for years, was finally caught mainly by the efforts of a cartoonist.
  • Manhunt: Unabomber – How a man, who has commited the perfect crimes, eventually gets caught by his ideosyncrasies (the way in which he writes and the words he uses).

There are undoubtedly many more documentaries out there (beyond Netflix too but I mostly watch on Netflix), but this should give you a great start to discovering those! I hope some peaked your interest, let me know if you end up watching one (or more!). If you think I’ve missed out on some or have some recommendations of yourself, let me know! I’m always on the hunt for more.

2 thoughts on “The True Crime Geek’s Guide to True Crime Documentaries

  1. This is SO MUCH FUN, thanks for compiling the list! I love the way you divided them. Will definitely check some of those out – Don’t F with Cats sounds so weird.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you!! It is very weird, it definitely went in directions I did not expect. I hope you found some you’ll enjoy!

      Liked by 1 person

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